'Work in progress' Story delivers walk-off HR

May 23rd, 2021

DENVER -- Coors Field erupted Sunday with 's walk-off, out-of-last-place home run for a 4-3 win over the D-backs. But just three days ago, all that disturbed the natural murmur of the ballpark were the pops from Story’s bat, occasionally followed by a ball that reached the bleachers or thudded against the outfield wall.

Between rounds of testing and tuning, Story would speak in relaxed tones with hitting Rockies coach Dave Magadan, positioned behind an L-shaped screen to toss him balls underhanded, and manager Bud Black, who leaned against the batting cage to support his standout but slumping shortstop.

Black noted the subject of their talks stayed on Story trying to regain his craftsmanship, or a mostly inexperienced team trying to find its way. Even though Story and the team were struggling, and those struggles can lead to tough conversations considering Story is in his final contract year, Black didn’t have to play therapist.

“I talk to Trev every day about something,” Black said. “It could be anything. But I never felt the need to bring him into my office or have a sidebar with him somewhere. No.

“The hitting coach, the players, talk every day. This day and age, there’s so much cage time, guys preparing, guys doing their routine. There’s a lot of interaction. There’s video that guys watch alongside hitting coaches. I never felt the need to bring Trev in.”

Such is the trust for Story, who wasn’t distracted by the low prospects for the team coming into the season, hasn’t let the near universal predictions that he will be dealt at the Trade Deadline disrupt him, and has stayed locked in with this many inexperienced teammates during their 2021 trials.

They trust that Story will come through in moments like Sunday, which sent the D-backs to their 13th straight road loss and pulled the Rockies (18-29) past Arizona and out of fifth place in the National League West for the first time since April 10.

Before his 2-for-5 day Sunday, which ended with his fifth homer of the season and fourth career walk-off homer, Story had languished to the tune of a .164/.233/.218 slash line over his previous 14 games.

Story’s homer off Stefan Crichton, 438 feet to straight center on a 1-1 pitch, was the result not of fretting over his and his team’s condition but controlling that within his realm.

“For me, it’s good to get out on the field, see ball flight and feel familiar in the setting that you’re going to be when the game time comes,” Story said. “That was for me getting into my good routine on the field early, and having that good feeling when it comes time for game time.

“It’s always a work in progress.”

Story is the Rockies’ most marketable star -- and that includes the Trade Deadline market. But he has drawn the admiration of Black and his teammates by not letting his celebrity set him apart from his teammates.

The trade of third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals put Story in an interesting position. Story had said the last couple years that he wanted a stronger leadership voice. With Arenado gone, and with Ian Desmond choosing not to play for a second straight year, the season presented him a chance to take a place alongside outfielder Charlie Blackmon as a leader.

“In Spring Training you saw a little bit of an elevation in his leadership and what he does on a daily basis as it relates to the other players,” Black said. “He’s more conversational with the guys. Now he’s more vocal in hitters' meetings. He’s more vocal if we have a team meeting about something.

“It's a sign of maturity. It's a sign of truly caring about where he is in the game, now as a six-year player on the team that has a lot of younger guys. It's been great.”

At .262 with a .770 OPS, he is as close to his many struggling teammates in performance as he is to the form that made him one of the game’s top players at his position. Before the D-backs series, he had struck out 15 times in his previous 32 plate appearances. But he doubled in each of the first two games against Arizona.

“Today was awesome for him,” said pitcher Jon Gray, who gave up three runs in six innings after starting the game perfect through four frames. “I’ve seen him barrel up so many baseballs, with guys playing in the gaps and stealing doubles from him. It’s really good to see him get rewarded like he did today.”

Story continues to speak an example, provide one through his work, and show the way to a turnaround that he hopes can rub off on the Rockies.

“We have a lot of guys with a lot of talent that are gaining experience,” Story said. “I’m here for those guys. I’m here for our team.”